September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Job Searching in Tough Economic Times

Posted: Sunday, May 1st, 2011

by Donna Ross

This column will reach many preservice teachers just as you are finishing your credential programs and applying for jobs. Unfortunately, this is not the easiest job market. However, there are always some teaching jobs available and you should strive to market yourself as effectively as possible. This column highlights a few suggestions.

If you are still in your student teaching placement, be sure to invite the school administrators to observe your teaching. Assuming you are doing excellent work, this is an opportunity to showcase your skills. Be sure to thank the administrator in writing for visiting your class. If you have enough contact and the opportunity arises, you may be able to ask the administrator for a letter of recommendation. However, even if there is not a formal recommendation, administrators talk among themselves. Imagine the value of the principal describing your brilliant lesson to a principal at another school who just learned of a position opening up due to a retirement at her school.

Volunteer for extra activities. The science education community is small. Those who participate attract positive notice. Administrators want teachers who are dedicated to making a difference for their students. In most communities, if multiple people were asked to identify which teachers are involved in science school-community partnerships, the same names will be consistently listed. You want to be part of that list for two reasons: because you will be involved in exciting opportunities for students and because administrators will think of you when they are looking for employees.

Seek other paths to become familiar with schools and districts. If your schedule allows, try working as a substitute at a variety of sites. This will permit you the opportunity to become known by many teachers. It will also allow you the chance to see which schools fit best with your teaching philosophy. Again, if you have enough contact with an administrator or teacher at a site, you may be able to get a letter of recommendation, but equally important are the verbal recommendations among colleagues.

Identify and prepare brief examples that demonstrate your excellence in the field. Make sure that you have a high quality manner of presenting these examples to potential employers. The key words here are brief and excellence. It is better to have several short examples than one long one. This is basic marketing. The first step is to interest future employers. Then you will have time later to go into more depth about your philosophy.

Practice interview techniques. Many universities have career placement offices that offer videotaped mock interview sessions. These can be invaluable training opportunities, particularly in a tight job market when one poorly answered interview question might be all that separates you from the next candidate. If your university does not offer these services, a group of friends role-playing an interview panel can provide some of the same support.

When looking for jobs, search regularly on district websites, individual school websites (particularly for charter, alternative, magnet, and private schools), and network with people. For example, faculty members at your university often hear of local job openings. If you have a student CSTA chapter or other organization, stay in contact. Timing can be important. For example, if a job opening is casually mentioned at a meeting, a faculty member is more likely to pass along your information if he or she just saw you at an event and was reminded that you are looking for a similar position.

Don’t forget the basics of any job search. Dress and behave professionally, be polite and respectful, and always thank those involved in the process. Complete paperwork neatly and accurately. Consider widening your geographic search area. Be sure that all electronic communication is appropriate, including any social media that might be accessible to the public. Employers do check.

Most importantly, become involved in the professional community. The more well known you are in the field for your ideas and experience with science education activities, the more employers will seek you. Even in tight job markets, there are usually people who have multiple job offers. Ultimately, this allows you to choose the best fit for your teaching style and philosophy. Best wishes to you all.

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

Written by Donna Ross

Donna Ross is Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.